If the dictionary defines a term as a racial slur, should the NFL allow it to be used as a team name?
Oneida Nation, a Native American group leading the “Change the Mascot” movement, has urged Washington Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name and be on “the right side of history.”
After an hour-long meeting Wednesday with NFL executives in New York City, Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Nation, said that he asked the league to amend its bylaws to bar the use of “dictionary defined racial slurs” as football team names, and asked the group to sanction Snyder for continuing to use the “racist” name.
Halbritter also asked to meet all the team owners during the week of Super Bowl XLVIII, and invited NFL commissioner Roger Goddell and Snyder to the Oneida Nation homelands to discuss the effect the team name has on Native American people.
“This is a civil rights issue,” Halbritter said. “Football in the NFL should be unifying forces.”
“It’s unacceptable in this time in the 21st century, a team will continue to use a racist slur over the objections by those people offended by it and victimized by it, especially when that team represents our nation’s capitol,” he said.
Snyder told Goodell on Tuesday that he had no plans to change the Redskins’ name, according to the Washington Post. Earlier in October, Snyder wrote a letter to Redskins season ticket holders, explaining his position.
“After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come,” Snyder wrote. “We are Redskins Nation … and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage.”
Snyder and Goodell did not attend Wednesday’s meeting with Oneida Nation. The NFL’s senior vice president Adolpho Birch, executive vice presidents Jeff Pash and Paul Hicks reportedly attended the meeting with representatives.
“We listened and respectfully discussed the views of Mr. Halbritter, Oneida Nation Wolf Clan Representative Keller George and their colleagues as well as the sharply differing views of many other Native Americans and fans in general,” the league said in a statement released Wednesday evening. “The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue to facilitate listening and learning, consistent with the commissioner’s comments earlier this year.”
Last month, Goodell said the decision was ultimately up to the team owner.
“If one person’s offended, we have to listen. And ultimately, it is Dan [Snyder]’s decision. But it is something that I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people who have a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition that it has for so many years.”
Oneida Nation’s spokesperson said the team name is disrespectful and divisive. “The use of the R-word is not a unifying force nor does it convey honor or respect,” Halbritter said. “Quite the opposite.”
“Washington’s team is the very word our people heard when they were dragged at gunpoint, off their own lands, and forced onto reservations. It was used when our children were taken from schools and put into boarding schools to strip them of who they were, with the philosophy of ‘Kill the Indians, Save the Man.’”
Earlier this month, President Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press that if he owned the Redskins he would consider changing the name.